The Biblical Pastor

shutterstock_624810071(This short message was a part of the pastor installation service held yesterday at New Hope Chapel.)

What is a pastor? The word “pastor” means a lot of things to a lot of people. When I searched the Greek word this week, I was surprised to find that out of the 18 times it is used in the NT, it is translated “pastor” exactly one time, in Ephesians 4:

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ.”

It is one spiritual gift in a list of many, all given to believers to build up the Church. The other 17 times the Greek word is used, it is always translated “shepherd.” It might surprise you that it is not used as a title or to designate an official office. So there can be many shepherds in a congregation.

What does the spiritual gift of shepherding look like? We get a glimpse in 1 Peter 5:1-5.

“Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.

Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd in John 10. He said that as the Good Shepherd, he would lay down his life for His sheep. He knew His flock, and they knew Him.

If we view these two passages on “pastoring” (1 Peter 5 and John 10) side-by-side, we can get a pretty good idea of what God would have His pastors to be.
Shepherds in the church are to take their cue from Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, who performed His shepherd duties flawlessly. So what does a godly pastor look like?

Godly shepherds are humble. Jesus definitely led the way on that one. He gave up everything to come to earth and live as a man. He regarded his glory not a thing to be grasped. He told His disciples: “The Son of Man has come to serve, not to be served.”

As with any spiritual gift, the ability to shepherd is never about the glory. In the way God designed the church to function, no one is more important than the rest. Peter’s instructions say it well: “shepherd the flock… not lording it over those allotted to your charge…

Godly shepherds have the flock’s best interests in mind. Jesus said as the Good shepherd, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Shepherds in the church serve the needs of the flock.

Godly shepherds care deeply for the flock. Jesus contrasted himself to a hired hand that flees when he sees the wolf coming, leaving the flock in his care in the dust. The Good Shepherd, on the other hand, lays down his life for the sheep.

A godly shepherd leads by example. Jesus said that “When he brings out the sheep, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow…” Jesus often berated the Pharisees, who had the “do as I say, not as I do” policy.

In the same way, church leaders should do most of their leading by living it out in front of the flock. The saying is true: actions speak louder than words.

And finally, probably the most important characteristic of a Godly Shepherd:

A godly shepherd understands who really owns the flock. He gets who paid for them, understands what the owner went through to get them. Shepherds in the church are really just under-shepherds, who are to care for the flock until the Chief Shepherd returns.

We like to describe our local body at New Hope Chapel by saying: “We’re God’s church.” We don’t want to be identified by a denomination or associate with any defining group. Our identity is in Christ alone. We want what God wants. A godly shepherd has that same kind of attitude: we must always remember, “This is God’s flock.”

Tough sandals to fill, right? Under-shepherding is lots of work, and when it’s done right, it doesn’t result in much glory. But here’s the good news: when the Good Shepherd returns, he will reward his under-shepherds with crown of glory. We can’t out-give God! Hebrews 6:10 “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.”

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About juliecoleman

Julie Coleman is an author, teacher, and speaker, focusing on Biblical study and women's ministries. Besides speaking at women's retreats and conferences, Julie has written two books - Unexpected Love and 15 Minutes a Day in Colossians.

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